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Live from Birkdale, it’s British marathon

This line is sure to annoy the Brits, especially the ones with inferiority complexes. That the greatest player in England’s golf history is poking fun at the name of the only major played outside the United States will make it all the more aggravating.

Six-time major winner Nick Faldo, working this week as part of the NBC/Golf Channel crew at the 146th British Open at Royal Birkdale, a few days ago chided a questioner who referred to the oldest of the four majors as “The Open Championship.”

“ ‘The Open Championship’ is incorrect,” Faldo said, playfully. “It's now ‘The Open.’ It's gone from the ‘British Open,’ ‘The Open Championship,’ now it's just ‘The Open.’ In another five years it will be just called ‘The.’ ”

He might well be right. But there’s no debating that the television coverage has been anything but shortened, which for fans in the States willing to burn the midnight oil – if not a pot of black coffee – means a veritable bombardment of broadcasting hours.

Over the first two days of coverage at Birkdale, Golf Channel will air what, in “Court TV” terms, would be dubbed gavel-to-gavel coverage. For some of the lead jurists on the broadcast bench, that can create some hardships.

After all, veteran NBC/GC analyst Johnny Miller turned 70 in April, and because of his Mormon beliefs, doesn’t drink cola or caffeine. In order to stay frosty on the air, Miller plans to cut back the hours he’s on the air this week.  

“Well, they're starting to see that my blond hair is now gray,” said Miller, who was on the air for eight hours on the weekend days when NBC took over the British Open telecast from ABC last year. “Yeah, it's getting crazy how many hours are being covered at golf championships.”

NBC/GC will televise a record 49½ hours of live tournament coverage – which doesn’t include any on-site shows such as the insightful “Live From” program – on Thursday through Sunday. For fans still grousing about the lack of broadcast hours at the Masters, where TV options are slim and slimmer by comparison, they’ll be awash in coverage, so to speak.

“It's just getting where everything is getting covered,” Miller said with a laugh. “We're going to be covering [players in] the shower. I don't know. It's just getting crazy.”

Here’s to embracing the insanity. 

Beginning with coverage of the first group off the tee shortly after dawn in Southport, England (tee times: http://bit.ly/2tnMu0F), Golf Channel will air 14½ hours of coverage Thursday and Friday, starting at 1:30 a.m. ET. Fans on the West Coast reasonably could stage all-nighters during the first two rounds, because the live coverage won’t end until 4 p.m. ET.

You like “Breakfast at Wimbledon”? Here’s to breakfast, lunch and dinner at Southport. Miller and Faldo will handle the majority of the analysis chores, with Iron Mike Tirico as the primary host. They will work in tag-team shifts. Otherwise, they’d get punchy, Miller said. Faldo, who turned 60 on Tuesday, isn’t as young as he used to be, either.

“When you're on 12 hours and all they talk about is the one mistake – you think you wouldn't make a mistake in 12 hours of coverage?” Miller said, laughing. 

Fox host Joe Buck, who misidentified the name of winner Brooks Koepka’s girlfriend during the final moments of the U.S. Open last month and was savaged for it, certainly would not argue.

“So, there's pressure there,” Miller said of the marathon sessions. “You've got to keep your wits about you, and you've got to be careful what you say nowadays a bit. 

“Not that I'm very careful. Sometimes I cross the line. I'm always near the line.”

On Saturday, Golf Channel will handle coverage from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. ET before NBC takes over from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET. On Sunday, Golf Channel broadcasts from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. before NBC finishes off the final hours of the whirlwind week.

With Tirico dealing the cards for the 21st consecutive year at the British Open, spanning his earlier days at ESPN/ABC, the crew also will include past event winners David Duval, Mark O’Meara and Justin Leonard. Add anchormen Miller and Faldo and that’s seven Claret Jugs among them.

They’ll parcel off the day in sections, because divide and conquer might be the only way to survive the long days.

“Johnny is doing an afternoon segment, while I go off and do my afternoon tea,” Faldo said. “I'll take it to 9, which is past my bedtime, and I'll crawl home and start again.”

So will many of the American viewers, albeit in reverse. But for the broadcaster and golf fans, it’s worth the extra effort at the majors.

“When it's good golf, when it's a championship like that, I'm quite happy sitting up there, gassing away,” Faldo said.

Steve Elling has covered golf for the Orlando Sentinel, CBSSports.com and numerous other global print and online outlets. Email: ellingink@gmail.com; Twitter: @EllingYelling